“Isabella, or the Pot of Basil,” painting by Joseph Severn (1793-1879)
Imaginative consciousness is an important element in the art of Spiritual PhytoEssencing. In the context of this discussion, the term imaginative consciousness refers to overcoming the limitations of analysis of the material aspects of an essential oil performed exclusively by the senses and intellect via a complementary perception of the archetypal thought-forms, or spiritual roots, which sustain these material aspects.
While these formative processes are non-material, they nevertheless are the source of the tangible expressions of an essential oil. All our sense data is processed by the brain which subsequently produces a construct that we accept as “reality.” However, this is actually only a mirrored image that does not reflect the inner essence of a phenomenon such as a plant that exists prior to our intellectual and perceptual processing. The 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant referred to this primary, sustaining essence as ding an sich: the thing in itself.
In Spiritual PhytoEssencing, the creative use of synchronicities is a tool used to help facilitate imaginative consciousness. Synchronicity is a term coined by C.G. Jung to designate a significant underlying correspondence between psychic and physical phenomena which on the surface have no apparent causal relationship to one another. In the elaboration of the inner nature of certain essential oils, one of the basic synchronicities employed in Spiritual PhytoEssencing is long-term associations between an oil and a particular animal species.
Basil And The Scorpion
In this reference, one of the most crucial clues regarding the soul-nature (i.e., ‘the thing in itself’) of basil oil is folklore’s elaboration of a basil/scorpion synchronicity. Basil has traditionally been used to treat scorpion stings. One of the more interesting historical revelations about basil is that, among some Eastern magicians, it was once thought that they could produce scorpions by crushing basil between two stones. Most modern thinkers will be inclined to dismiss this as a bit of primitive foolishness. Yet, it is precisely the peculiarity of this proposed metamorphosis that should draw one’s eye to it. It is doubtful that this odd alchemy was ever successfully accomplished. Nevertheless, what is significant is that this alchemical association between basil and scorpions was made in the first place and that this strange bit of trivia was deemed worthy enough to be historically noted.
Apparently, this association between basil and scorpions was widespread among many different cultures. The following anecdote is attributed to an 18th century European botanist named Tournefort: “A certain gentleman of Sienna being wonderfully taken and delighted with the smell of basil, was wont very frequently to take the powder of the dry herb and snuff it up his nose; but in a short time he turned mad and died; and his head being opened by surgeons, there was found a nest of scorpions in his brain.”
Mrs. M. Grieve in her book: A Modern Herbal relates: “Parkinson [an early English herbalist] tells us that ‘being gently handled it [basil] gave a pleasant smell, but being hardly wrung and bruised would breed scorpions. It is also observed that scorpions do much rest and abide under these pots and vessels wherein basil is planted.’ It was generally believed that if a sprig of basil were left under a pot, it would in time turn into a scorpion…Hilarius, a French physician, affirms upon his own knowledge that an acquaintance of his, by common smelling of it [basil], had a scorpion breed in his brain.”
Nicholas Culpeper, the famed 17th century English astrologer-physician, wrote: “And away to Dr. Reason went I, who told me it [basil] was an herb of Mars, and under the Scorpion, and therefore called basilicon, and it is no marvel if it carry a kind of virulent quality with it.”
Homeopathic Remedy Androctonos
Given the extensive body of folklore regarding basil and scorpions, certain aspects of the homeopathic remedy Androctonos (prepared from scorpion) can be used to help us expand our understanding of the inner-nature of basil oil. Indeed, it has been my experience that individuals who require Androctonos often have a profound affinity for basil essential oil and a strong desire to use basil as a culinary herb.
In homeopathy, various remedy categories such as mineral remedies, plant remedies, milk remedies and spider remedies are associated with specific types of symptoms and individuals. Individuals for whom spider remedies are indicated tend toward restlessness; are driven; feel they must work; have a dark, deceitful, threatening nature; portend a quality of death for others; tend toward addictive behavior, including sexual addiction.
Like spiders, scorpions are arachnids, thus Androctonos has certain characteristics in common with the spider remedies. Androctonos individuals have feelings of being assaulted, persecuted, and that there are attackers around them so they must defend themselves. They tend to be destructive and insensitive to other people’s feelings. They often have violent, aggressive dreams, and can be violent, showing little remorse. They can be contemptuous, quarrelsome, suspicious, critical and unfeeling. Their emotions are easily excited, and they become angry when interrupted. They are quick to act and subject to loss of self-control. Androctonos is listed in the homeopathic repertory under the rubric: Desire to kill her own child. Significantly, the ancients believed that the basil plant would not grow unless one heaped verbal abuse upon it when planting it. Similarly, the Romans believed that such abuse was required for basil to flourish.
Also, some botanists feel that the species name basilicum derives from the word basilisk: a mythological serpent- or dragon-like creature that had the power to kill with its breath or a single look.
Central to the Androctonos picture is the theme of “contracting to a pinpoint,” much like the scorpion’s stinger (it has a coiled tail which terminates in a pinpoint stinger). The scorpion hides under a rock and tunnels into the sand, attacking whatever crosses its path. Similarly, the scorpion individual views the world through the opening at the end of a tunnel—a strong defensive position relative to what he perceives as being the constant threat from the outside world. This encourages the perspective that nothing matters except personal survival. Thus, he contracts his focus to a single point to the exclusion of all others. Interestingly, I have found that individuals who are avid photographers almost invariably have a strong affinity for basil oil.
Healing The Scorpion-Type’s Victims
As Spiritual PhytoEssencing is a form of psycho-spiritual work to which only sensitive, spiritually inclined people tend to be drawn, it is unlikely that the practitioner will often have the opportunity to treat a scorpion-type. However, since basil has traditionally been used to treat scorpion stings, bioenergetically its anti-venomous properties can potentially be used to treat the emotional wounds of children and spouses of scorpion- or spider-type individuals. Unfortunately, this type of individual is quite common and one can see how a long-term relationship with such a person can lead to a constitutional state characterized by nervous depletion resulting from the demands of constant vigilance and reactivity. In turn, this nervous depletion encourages a breakdown of natural defenses, vulnerability to invasion by foreign forces and consequent emotional delusions, imaginings and instability.
Also, as a defensive measure and through osmosis via proximity, “victims” of the scorpion-type frequently develop some scorpion-like traits as a survival mechanism. In other words, the best way to anticipate a scorpion-type’s volatile moods and reactions is to come to think like him. Often, the lives of middle-aged adults who were children of a dangerous, abusive parent are still dominated by their horrific childhood experiences which lie at the core of their central disturbance. In homeopathy, certain remedies such as Lycopus are considered antidotes for an individual poisoned by the venom of a spider-type parent or spouse. Basil oil is worthy of consideration in this regard.
Basil has a long history in many parts of the world as both a medicinal herb and essential oil. Prescribing indications for basil which may represent constitutionally ingrained reactions to long-term experience with a scorpion-type individual, include: anxiety; nervous disorders; nervous debility; depression; mental fatigue; poor concentration; feelings of vulnerability; shyness; hysteria; schizophrenia; cold-heartedness; nervous insomnia; asthenia; fatigue; nervous headache; fainting spells; temporary paralysis; heart weakness; asthma; anorexia.
- Basil Materia Medica$5.00